Rob Bugden takes on 5 half marathons for charity
Completing one half marathon is not something many of us will ever do. Completing five is a whole other story. But that’s exactly what former RAF physical training and parachute jumping instructor, Rob Bugden, is doing as part of his 5 for 5 challenge - five half marathons for five charities, completed by a C5 tetraplegic in a wheelchair.
You can find out more and donate to Rob’s amazing efforts at the 5 for 5 website, and the link will be at the end of the article as well, along with information on the charities he is fundraising for.
Rob has always been active, including being an enthusiastic long-distance and cross-country runner at both junior and senior levels, and later joined the RAF, where he became a parachute jump instructor - despite having a fear of heights! In 2016, he suffered an injury during a training jump in California in which he and another person on the jump collided, breaking Rob’s neck and knocking him unconscious before they then fell 800-900 feet at 50mph without parachutes.
The consequences of Rob’s injury were severe: he was unable to walk and became tetraplegic and it took him months until he could feed himself or brush his teeth again, although he persevered even when his doctors said he wouldn’t be able to.
Hear more about Rob and his background in the below video.
The 5 for 5 challenge
That determination is very much the reason behind the 5 for 5 challenge. Sitting in his living room last autumn, Rob was looking for a way to push himself in 2023. He’d done half marathons previously, both before and since his injury, so, naturally, he thought “why not do five?”.
Rob is now aiming to raise £5000 for his chosen charities by completing the Great Welsh Half Marathon (2nd April), The Great West Run (21st May), Swansea Half Marathon (11th June), Wales Half Marathon (2nd July) and, finally, the Cardiff Half Marathon (1st October). Based in Cowbridge in Wales, Rob wanted to stay local for his races, but there’s also some personal significance, as the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2011 was the first one he ever ran and he knew he wanted to finish the challenge with it.
As well as his determination and grit, Rob was supported through his rehabilitation by some incredible charities, some of whom are among the five charities he is raising money for: Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Defence and Medical Rehabilitation Centre Benevolent Fund, Cakes for Casualties, OppO Foundation, and Tough Enough To Care.
We asked him why he’d chosen these:
“All five have had a profound impact on my life since my accident in January, 2016. And they're not just there for the short term, they’re there for life. I'm sure so many other people are and will be forever grateful to all of them for all the amazing work they have done in the past, do in the present, and will continue to do in the future. I know it's such a tough time for everybody at the moment, but every penny raised goes directly to them and will make such a difference to so many people and I know the charities are exceptionally grateful, but moreover, the beneficiaries of those charities are incredibly grateful.”
Training and preparation
Competing in five half marathons is not for the faint of heart, but that’s a term that could never be applied to Rob Bugden. While his mental fortitude will carry him a long way, Rob’s well aware of the physical demands and endurance required over long distances, along with the nuances that his injury brings. Bearing those in mind, his training regime has one primary goal:
“It’s really my shoulders and my biceps that propel me, so it’s just building up the tolerance. I’m relatively confident that I’ve got the strength so it’s just developing the endurance, whether that’s in the pool or out pushing around when walking [his dog] Denzel or on the skiing machine.” - Rob Bugden
He has an intense training schedule, going to physiotherapy three times a week at the Independent Physiotherapy Service, something that he has been doing for the past three years. Between these sessions, he also takes his dog, Denzel, for long walks in his local area, although Denzel won’t be competing in the half marathons, just watching from the sidelines. Throughout all this, he focuses on not overworking his shoulders.
When training for events like this, effective recovery is vital and Rob has been making use of his NuroKor Lifetech device on his shoulders to optimise his recovery and make the most of the gains from his training. Remaining comfortable is also extremely important, and Rob has made extensive use of our technology before now as well, as he experiences pain and swelling in his feet as a result of his injury. Using his device for about 40 minutes per day, he tailors his treatment sessions to how he’s feeling; increasing the intensity of the treatment on more difficult days. We’re incredibly proud to be part of Rob’s training for the challenge and look forward to seeing his success.
“It is possibly one of the best recovery tools and is my best tool in terms of pain.” - Rob Bugden
The five charities that Rob has chosen to fundraise for are all worthy causes and have a huge impact on so many people’s lives.
The RAF Benevolent Fund has supported current and former RAF members and their families for more than 100 years, providing them with emotional, practical and financial support. Rob is one of their ambassadors and they have made an immeasurable difference to his life, having bought his house and adapted it for him so that he can live independently.
A volunteer-run charity, the DMRC Benevolent Fund helps injured service personnel at DMRC Stanford Hall with holistic, occupational, and social integration opportunities. These might include taking people to a rugby game or to a restaurant, helping not only to do something different but to begin reintegrating into society and, in Rob’s words, learning to live again.
Another charity that is close to Rob’s heart, Cakes for Casualties is run by Kath The Cake Lady, who visits Birmingham Hospitals (every week) and Stanford Hall (every month) to bring cakes to, and spend time with, wounded soldiers. Kath is entirely self-funded, and her presence, time, and baking have made a profound effect on Rob and others - Rob’s favourites are probably her chocolate brownies and peanut butter cookies.
Founded by ex-serviceman, Kayam Iqbal, The OppO Foundation provides support for military personnel returning to civilian life, as well as promoting veterans in sport. They have donated a customised wheelchair worth £7000 for Rob to use in the half marathons and have recently put together a team of veterans to travel to Turkey and assist in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Tough Enough To Care encourages men to look after their mental health and raise awareness of the issue. Started by a former RAF serviceman, Stuart Bratt, they offer support lines as well as guidance on spotting signs of mental health problems in others, and run support groups for men and women.
We wish Rob the best of luck and we’ll be cheering on him and his team at every stage of the journey. If you’d like to donate to Rob’s efforts or find out more, visit the 5 for 5 website.
Founded in 2018, NuroKor is a company committed to the development of bioelectronic technologies. NuroKor develops and formulates programmable bioelectronic software for clinical and therapeutic applications, in a range of easy-to-use, wearable devices. It provides the highest-quality products, delivering personalised pain relief and recovery support and rehabilitation to patients.